13 January 2012

Review: The Name Of The Rose by Umberto Eco

The Name Of The Rose by Umberto Eco book cover
Well, it took 3 1/2 weeks, but I finally finished Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, and I've got to admit, it was pretty heavy going. Set in 1327, the tale is narrated by Adso of Melk, a young German monk who accompanies his master, William of Baskerville to a prosperous and wondrous abbey in Italy.

Upon arrival, William is asked by the Abbot to put his powers of observation to work and investigate the death of a monk in the abbey.

Meanwhile, the abbey is home to one of the richest libraries in the land, which is off limits to everyone in the abbey except for the librarian and assistant librarian. Adso and William are keen to unlock the secrets of the labyrinth library, as more monks turn up dead in what appears to be the work of the devil.

What made The Name of the Rose so heavy going for me were the religious discussions and scholarly debates in between the narrative outlined above. The monks discussed whether or not Jesus lived in poverty, whether laughter is a sin and the histories of various sects were discussed in such detail that I found it difficult to follow at times.

There were also frequent latin words and phrases without translation or footnotes, scattered throughout the book; almost one on every page. This was incredibly frustrating and I often felt I was missing out on key information at important junctures.

Having said all of that, I enjoyed the main plot, especially the adventures in the library (now there's a surprise). The Name of the Rose frequently appears on Top 100 and Must Read book lists and I'm glad I've finally read it, however Umberto Eco made me work as a reader and I could certainly tell that this was an Italian to English translation.

Those of you who have seen the 80s movie The Name of The Rose with Sean Connery playing the role of William and Christian Slater playing Adso, will know how the movie ends, however even knowing the ending didn't ruin the reading experience for me.

I was so glad to get to the end though, I can't honestly give it more than three stars.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

Would you like to comment?

  1. This is on my 1001 list. The heavy reading scares me somewhat.

  2. It's worth persevering with, as with most 'classics.'

    However; it's one of those books you might want to read in conjunction with something light and easy on the side to give you a break from time to time.

    You can do it!


Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!